There is an essential flaw in Death, Doom and modern Black Metal. Playing 32nd notes with your bass drums for a long steady time is awesome, but it doesn’t swing at all. It’s all “Rock” and no “Roll.” I am a firm believer that Rock & Roll does mean something, both as sex and a cannon of music. Rock and Roll are two sides, diametrically opposed, between a straight beat and a swinging beat. Rock is straight, Roll is swinging. Rock is Kiss, Roll is Thelonious Monk, Riders on the Storm is a good example of Rock and Roll. By the way if you listen to Riders on the Storm I swear Ray Manzereck is playing Horace Silver piano licks.
The problem for swinging in metal is that metal is played very fast, is very precise, and requires excellent tightness from all the musicians. That’s not a loose, free environment. Compounding this is the tradition of double bass drums as we’ve inherited it, let’s take Dave Lambardo as the first practioner I know to blow me away who sets this style. Playing a series of 16th notes or 32nd notes is very rocking but it’s also consistent – there is a great deal of equality between the bass drum sounds. This push for equal volume has gotten so severe I now read about many young drummers using triggers in order to digitize and simplify the process of playing smooth and evenly.
But playing smooth and evenly does not swing. For me, this has gone to far towards the Rock. Now, we all like to roll. When we were kids we rolled around, and when we were in college maybe we did some drug where we were rolling, or maybe you’re a fantastic snare drummer and can roll all day. Roll is the cool side of life. The ‘take it easy, man.’ Lying in a hammock = roll all day. Roll is cool, flexible, bounces, human made, grooving and sexy in an easy way VS the ostentatious sexiness of Rock.
The band Venom has an awesome song called Black Metal — which in my view is a rock & roll metal song — it’s punkish roots keep it loose and free. The chorus/hook says “we lay down our souls to the gods Rock & Roll.” There is some validity to this — in my view Rock is akin to Apollo and his precision and mastery. Think Yngvie Malmestein. Roll is Dionysus God of Passion, akin to an equally chop heavy John Coltrane. Apollo is knowledge while Dionysus is passion; your passion must fuel your desire for knowledge, not the inverse. For me, I want to make human sounding music that reeks of Nick.
Still I must engage in a genre of music I like very much, and bring my own turn to it, to revitalize it’s dormant swinging aspects. To this end I’ve begun playing a new kind of beat. I play my floor tom in sync with my bass drum in order to produce that chugging metal sound, but played between two different kinds of drums it takes on an even more cacophonous sound. It intrinsically sounds like an engine. My band NanoSMASH has two songs coming out soon that feature this beat, in Golden Spoke and Fast Cars.
The gist is that my right hand and left foot play every eighth note. My right foot/bass drum plays every beat inbetween those eighth notes. My left hand/snare is free to play when ever. I included a video below that shows you a good demonstration, both slow then fast.
Special shout out to Kevin Fitzgerald of 400 Blows who has his own style on this subject. He plays with his left hand on the hihat while I play with my left foot on the hat — thus freeing my left hand to do anything. I really like his drumming and this is a video of theirs here: